The Fall Of King Mourhino

by Uche Nworah

I became a Blues fan only after Roman Abramovich bought over Chelsea Football Club from Ken Bates, the previous owner. I was swayed by his ‘outsider’ status in English Football, a position he came to share with Mohamed Al Fayed, the owner of Fulham Football Club and luxury retailer Harrods.

My sympathy for the club and their owner increased when the club hired the brash and unpredictable Jose Mourhino as their manager. I remember his press conferences in his early days at the Bridge; his ‘talk-up’ and mind-games which could be likened to stoking up the flames before a ‘war’ was cherished by Chelsea football fans and derided by others. A manager with such a winning and ‘can do’ mentality was something many football clubs lacked. Mourhino made us feel like we could go to sleep even with our doors wide open, that nothing could happen to us since he was keeping watch.

Because of Mourhino, I bought my first ever football shirt, it was a Chelsea shirt which had my traditional title (Ezeudo) and the number 99 proudly and boldly emblazoned at the back. I was wearing my Chelsea shirt even on the day that I almost died at the hands of armed robbers in Abuja. If I had died that day, I would have gone to the grave in a Chelsea shirt. That bloodied and ripped up shirt has since been replaced by wifey with a new shirt now bearing Ezeudo 1.

Despite the cynicism and flak Mourhino constantly received from the British press, Chelsea fans adored and stood by him. Not even UEFA’s accusation that Mourhino was an ‘enemy of football’ could dissuade the teeming supporters from giving their football lives to their ‘messiah’.

Buoyed by the Abramovich war chest, the great Mourhino football ensemble began. In just one season (2004/2005), he put together the most expensive football squad ever fielded by any football team in the Premier league. The players marched on like true foot soldiers and mowed down teams, it was brash and brawn over beauty. Match after match, Chelsea would grind out results. The press would write, the other teams would complain but we would go home with our three points and subsequently Premiership trophies in season one and two of Mourhino being in charge.

And then the accusations came, from fans of Arsenal Football, the North London team that plays football with a flair, from Manchester United Football club fans, the team with good football tradition; they labelled all Chelsea fans traitors but we would shout back that we are not traitors. We hoped for the best still, that the Champions league trophy will end up at Stamford Bridge in season 2005/2006, but this wasn’t to be. The predicted fire-power of Shevchenko and the killer passes of Michael Ballack never materialised.

But if Chelsea fans were to tell themselves the truth, they would readily agree that the team was not playing good football; we would watch Arsenal or Barcelona and marvel and wish that we could play football like them. Even Abramovich wished the same; he felt that with his money, Chelsea should be a better football playing side, not just a two – season wonder.

By season three, our games had become boring, our wins hard fought, painful and excruciating. We began to leave things to the last minute and failed repeatedly to put matches beyond the reach of opposition teams. For many Chelsea fans, watching our games became something of an experiment in a torture chamber, we never could trust our beloved team to protect a lead. As we rode on luck match after match, the zeal and passion began to diminish.

And in season three came the spat and square – up between owner and manager. The ‘rumble in the bridge’ was only going to produce one winner – the owner.

By season four, the handwriting was clear on the wall for all to see, the joy had disappeared from the ‘special one’s’ face. It was the same excuse again that cost Chelsea the league title in season three – Terry, Carvalho and Cech’s long term injuries. This time around, it is Drogba and Lampard. It was such that Chelsea could not even beat a lowly Rosenborg team in a home tie in the Champions league, coming at the back of a 2-0 league defeat by Aston Villa, this surely spelt doom for club and manager.

What more could be done? At work on Wednesday, the morning after the Rosenborg game, I told my colleagues Mike Gallagher (also a Chelsea fan), and James Atta-Panin (an Arsenal fan) that Mourhino should be sacked. By late evening I had my wish, and so did several other Chelsea fans.

It has turned out that the ‘Special One’ is not so very special after all; his fire brigade approach to football management seems to suggest that he is a man for the short-term. Chelsea needs a man for the long-term, someone along the lines of the Arsenal Wengers of this world who can build a squad capable of winning trophies, while also entertaining the fans. Clearly the embarrassing empty seats at Stamford Bridge during recent games also portended financial danger to the club, especially now that Peter Kenyon, the club’s chief executive has said that Chelsea will henceforth be run like a proper business, thus signalling the end of the past seasons’ big money transfers, particularly the flops – Michael Ballack and Andre Shevchenko.

Mourhino did not help matters either with his several conspiracy theories, in the end the fans and the club owner got tired of his ‘we against them’ antics, a tactic that ate into the time which should have been used up by serious footballing matters, he ended up making Chelsea Football Club ‘public enemy’ number one, something at cross purposes with the owner’s and management objectives. They want the club to be loved, only that way could fans buy shirts and other sports memorabilia, and also buy match tickets. Take for instance the glaring attendance statistics from this week’s Champions league games. While only 24,973 fans saw Chelsea draw Rosenborg at Stamford Bridge, a crowd of 59,992 saw city rivals Arsenal thrash Sevilla 3-0 at the Emirates stadium. No wonder Arsenal has been confirmed as the second richest football club in the world after real Madrid.

Jose Mourhino deserves his £10 million severance pay packet, not bad for his 3 years tour of duty which produced 124 wins, 40 draws and 21 losses, including a record 60-match unbeaten run in Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge, of course not forgetting his 5 trophy haul over the three seasons (2 League tiles, 2 Carling cups and 1 FA cup), which football fans would argue Chelsea ‘bought’.

Mourhino’s departure from Stamford Bridge is good for club, manager, owner and the fans. Now the real long-term Roman Empire building can start. Only time will tell if the appointment of Israeli Avram Grant as new manager is a good move.

In the meantime, someone please pass me a ticket to an Arsenal game, I would love to go and see the Wenger boys and the resurgent Arsenal team in action, but with still my Chelsea shirt on.

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1 comment

Tomiwa Bolaji September 24, 2007 - 5:31 pm

i cant really say much about the so called, shall we call it the face off between Alhaji Mourhino and Alhaja Roman Abramovich. but i dont really think owners of club should be the formation of the game. roman's wealth has gotten in his head. hey chill out guys . even when i started playing lawn tennis i bought chelsea's jerseys and i still love the club. do u know what the problem is? good, we need a lot of young players with brains between the ages of 18-26 and a very few old players btwn the ages of 26-32 before we can perform. just like arsenal.


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